When Mental Illness Gets in the Way of Your Teen’s Life


There are millions of people around the world who would qualify as having symptoms of mental illness. For instance, people might experience anxiety, signs of depression, even hear voices from time to time. However, it is when those experiences interfere with the life that they want to have that it begins to be problematic. It is only when those experiences get in the way of school, work, and having healthy relationships that perhaps a mental health professional should get involved.


Specifically, for teens, experiencing symptoms of mental illness might look like the following list:


  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Beginning to not care about appearance
  • Losing interest in school
  • Dropping school grades
  • Absenteeism from school
  • Talking about death or having a fascination with death
  • Staying up all night for two or more nights in a row

These are indicators that a teen might be experiencing depression, mania, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. These are also indications that it might be time to call a therapist or psychologist in your neighborhood. If you’re seeing any of these signs, you might recognize that your teen’s inner life may be interrupting his or her ability to do well in school or work. Of course, a drop in grades and absenteeism might already be a clear indication that something is wrong. In these cases, it’s incredibly important to get your teen the help that he or she needs. Untreated depression can lead to suicide. And other forms of mental illness, when untreated, can get worse and cause more disruption in a teen’s life.


However, it’s important to know too that the changes teens experience during adolescence might occasionally cause periods of sadness, existential angst, frustration, and other types of feelings. Teens can also be emotional and impulsive, which can lead to certain types of difficulty in their life. They are yearning to break free from the limiting constraints of their parents, and at the same time, they want to hang onto the safety and protection that their parents can provide. Teens are also struggling to discover who they are, working to uncover their unique sense of self in a variety of ways. This too can create feelings of disappointment and disillusionment from time to time.


However, the greatest indicator that a teen requires the assistance of a mental health professional is when they are unable to function in their life, such as in school or at work. When the tumultuousness of a teen’s inner life is causing self-harm (such as cutting) or harm to others (physical fights), this too indicates that a teen might need some help.


Alongside this, it’s important for parents to know that they don’t have to wait for trouble to happen to get their teen someone to talk to. Even very mentally healthy teens enjoy the experience of having a therapist or a support group to attend in order to ease the challenges that adolescence brings. However, if you notice that your teen is having challenges in school, at work, at home, or among his or her relationships, contact a mental health provider today.